MEN AND HIV: Ironing out toxic norms of masculinity
Reaching the Sustainable Development Goal target to end AIDS as public health threat by 2030 requires focusing on and prioritizing people who are not yet accessing lifesaving HIV services.
This is according to a framework for action, focusing on male engagement in HIV testing, treatment and prevention. The framework was compiled by UNAIDS, Sonke Gender Justice, UN Women and the World Health Organization (WHO).
UNAIDS East and Southern Africa Regional Director, Anne Githuku-Shongwe says women are still disproportionately affected than men by HIV, especially in terms of HIV transmission, but men in Eastern and Southern Africa are less likely to access services. They use HIV testing services less, and are less likely to initiate antiretroviral therapy and to remain engaged in care than their female counterparts.
Men who are in antiretroviral therapy programmes are 70% more likely to die than women because of their poor health seeking behavior. Prevailing harmful norms of masculinity are a key factor contributing to this disparity, Githuku-Shongwe said.
“Toxic gender norms that equate “illness” with “weakness”, and that consider sexual and reproductive health a foremost female issue, lead to poor health seeing behavior and lower health service uptake among men in their diversity. Programmes that challenge these norms are far and few between, but are urgent and necessary to achieve the targets to end AIDS epidemic. However, norms are only one among many factors,” she said.
Globally, knowledge of HIV status is lower among men and boys, and antiretroviral therapy coverage of men lags behind that of women. In many countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, the region with the highest HIV burden globally, more than half of men aged 24-35 years living with HIV are unaware of their HIV-positive status and are not on treatment.
“This imperils their own health and increases the risk of transmission. The identification and diagnosis of men who do not know their HIV-positive statuses is essential in promoting men’ health and breaking the cycle of HIV transmission.”
According to this framework for action, since 2009, a growing number of studies have raised the alarm about men’s and boy’s low involvement in HIV services and urged action on two fronts: to challenge the social, cultural and gender norms about manhood that encourage men to take excessive risks, be over controlling, and view health-seeking behaviors as a sign of weakness, and improve health system policies, programmes and service delivery strategies to ensure better provision of HIV services for men and boys.
HARMFUL GENDER NORMS ABOUT FEMINITY AND MASCULINITY
A significant body of research and experience shows that a range of complex, multilevel factors contribute to men’s and boy’s low uptake of HIV-related services. Although some barriers are the product of prevailing harmful gender norms- such as equating illness with “weakness” and viewing clinical settings as “female spaces”- there are many other factors that contribute to the status quo.
“Men and boys lack the universal entry points to health systems that women and girls generally have. Limited opening hours and facility-based service delivery models further restrict access for men who work outside their communities during the day. Health-system constraints go beyond the service delivery level,” this is according to the framework.
In most countries, men are largely missing from public health strategies, and there is little or no mention of strategies or activities to improve their access to health and HIV services. A broader enabling environment needs to be intentionally created, including laws, policies and health strategies.
The health and lives of men and boys intertwine with those of women and girls. Gender inequalities and associated harmful gender norms about femininities and masculinities disproportionately affect women’s and girl’s sexual reproductive health and rights, with only 55% of women having autonomy in reproductive rights. This, according to the framework, contributes in clear and direct ways to women’s and girl’s vulnerabilities to HIV infection.
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Dr Lame Pusetso comes to writer’s rescue
Multi award winning author of fifteen (15) books, Dr Lame Pusetso has put together a platform to empower local writers. Dr Pusetso is a President and Chairperson of the Executive Board of Kasapa Society.
She is also the Managing Director of Poeticblood Publishers and an owner of an online bookstore dubbed Mind and Soul Bookstores. Dr Pusetso has reiterated her commitment to helping upcoming authors, writers and poets in establishing their crafts and capitalizing on them.
In an exclusive interview this week, she said that she has put together a platform dubbed Botswana Literature Awards, which have fourteen categories.
When quizzed on what the awards stand for, Dr Pusetso said “writing as a form of art in Botswana is a skill that many have and have always been exploring. As a publisher, I have met different writers from all walks of life and some indicating that there isn’t enough motivation to keep going.”
In Botswana and according to the writer, there has been a limited representation of appreciation of authors. This is despite their efforts year in year out.
The whole intention of these awards really is to honor and recognize the hard work that local authors put in, when doing what they know best (writing).
“This is a way of appreciating their creativity and we will be doing this across all genres. The awards also act as a motivational tool to young writers who still have dreams of becoming best selling authors. Quite frankly, their works are of great importance and we cannot afford to let that slide like that.”
Dr Pusetso emphasized that all the winners will walk away with an award, a certificate and complimentary gifts to take home. “The two winners of Best Overall Author and Best Young Author will in addition receive book publication deals which includes book distribution and marketing for a year.
She gave a clearer picture of how authors can be a part of the literature awards.
“The awards are open to every author from the age of 7, must be a Motswana, and their book should have been published before or by 2022. For authors with more than one book, they are allowed to compete with only one book for one category, and different books for different categories.”
The young writer pinned hope on institutional collaborations, in order to stage the second edition of the awards next year, saying “We believe with these awards, the different institutions and stakeholders will show interest in helping nurture the literature scenario in Botswana.”
“It will also give authors hope and light to keep writing and penning down their stories for the benefit of all. We anticipate to host the next edition in 2024 with assistance from all interested parties.”
THE LITERATURE AWARDS CATEGORIES
Dr Pusetso stressed that there are fourteen (14) categories, and they are: Religious or Faith Based Book, Poetry Book, Children’s Book, Multi-lingual Writer, Best Collaboration, Setswana Novel, English Novel, Motivational Book, Best Young Author (7-13), Overall Best Author, Best Theory, Best Online Writer, Best Media Writer (Honor Award) and Honor Award (Long Serving Best Author).
EXPLAINING SPECIAL AWARDS
Best Media and Honor Award, Dr Pusetso said are not based on submissions but nomination by the committee. “For Honor Award, we want to appreciate the individual who has inspired the Botswana writing scenario over the years and even assisted numerous authors as both a writer and a community leader.”
The Best Media Writer award is meant to appreciate a journalist who is actively taking part in appreciating and helping authors in marketing, advertising and affording them a platform to showcase their works through their writing skills.
Meanwhile, the Botswana Literature Awards will be held on the 29th April and they are partially sponsored through the literacy grant. This is a grant under the Botswana National Library Services which falls under the Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sports and Culture.
Women’s Awards hit the ground running
The second edition of the much-anticipated Women’s Awards Botswana will be going down on the 27th May 2023 in Gaborone at Travel Lodge. The organizers of the prestigious awards have announced finalists, with three nominees per category.
Women’s Awards Botswana is established to empower women and celebrate them from all walks of life and across sectors. The awards raise awareness for women to be granted equal participation, particularly in decision-making positions, as one way of breaking the gender bias.
They also seek to celebrate the outstanding achievements of women from diverse industries in Botswana. Taking a closer look at the categories, He for She award celebrates and shines a light on men who stand and support women.
These are men who advocate for inclusion of women, men who stand against GBV and men who promote any service that can better women life. Her Abilities award looks into women who have shown determination to keep moving and achieve any goal they have set for themselves, regardless of their disability.
Other awards are self-explanatory. They celebrate women in arts, culture and entertainment, agriculture, creativity, innovation and technology, tourism and hospitality, community impact as well as organization supporting women.
ORGANIZER SPEAKS ON CRITERIA USED
When speaking in an interview, Founder and Director of Women’s Awards Botswana, Bofelo Zebe, said in their first edition, they had fifteen categories, which was enough for a piloting project.
“But we left out many industries or lines of work. After the event, we received reviews and suggestions, and there was an intensive evaluation that led to us increasing the categories to eighteen for this second edition.”
He said the nominees were voted in by the public, adding that the finalists were judged by a panel with the support of votes from their supporters.
When shedding light on what winners take home, Zebe indicated that there is an award trophy, certificate and goodie bags for all categories but “we are working to have financial sponsors jump on board so that winners and nominees can receive monetary incentives. We are also busy at work trying to retain our previous sponsors.”
THE 2023 WOMEN’S AWARDS BOTSWANA NOMINEES
HE FOR SHE AWARD
Desmond Lunga, Tlhabo Kgosiemang and Christopher Seagateng
BEST WOMAN IN ARTS, CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT
Ditshupo Mosoboloko, Thanolo Keutlwile and Seneo Mabengano
HER ABILITIES AWARD
Koketso Seleke, Goabo Kgasa and Mumsie Odirile
SPORTS WOMAN OF THE YEAR
Naledi Marape, Ouname Mhotsha and Keamogetse Kenosi
WOMAN FASHION DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
Montle Rantatana, Lesedi Matlapeng and Trudy Bakwena
BEST WOMAN IN AGRICULTURE
Nomathemba Masuku, Basadi Molelekeng and Keolebogile Keabetswe
BEST WOMAN IN CREATIVITY, INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY
Marang Mbaakanyi, Didintle Moreki and Thandeka Palai
BEST WOMAN IN TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY
Masego Keleadile, Wapula Matshambane and Tshepo Phokoje
YOUNG WOMAN OF THE YEAR
Bridget Gothaang, Waone Makobo and Kimberly Matheakgomo
WOMAN OWNED SME BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Suits Africa, Nomlu Nail Bar and Sunflower Desserts
BEST WOMAN OWNED BUSINESS
Prezlin Clothing and Dawn Bell Academy
FEMALE MUSIC ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Mpho Sebina, Dato Seiko and Priscilla K
BEST ORGANIZATION SUPPORTING WOMEN
Sekao Foundation, The Fighters Support Group and Single Mothers Living with HIV
BEST WOMAN WITH COMMUNITY IMPACT
Lebopo Bulayani, Nanzelela Chaitezvi and Kebadile Wasenda
MEDIA WOMAN OF THE YEAR
Poppy Sello, Keikantse Shumba and Kedi Lezozo
FAVOURITE PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR
Marang Selolwane, Palesa Molefe and Masi Sithole
BEST WOMAN IN LEADERSHIP
Naseem Lahri, Neo Bogatsu and Lily Rakorong